From The Archives: Unnecessary Self-Analysis

I originally published this blog post on January 30, 2016.

The Lord, for reasons known only to Him, kept me single until a month before my 49th birthday. His decision  troubled me greatly, to say the least.

During those anguished years of singleness, “Christian psychology” made its way into the church I’d joined. Consequently, I felt compelled to analyze my desire to marry, much as my friends tried to analyze  their same sex attractions.  Borrowing from that church’s use of psychological models, I reasoned that uncovering the underlying cause of my longing for a husband would unlock ways that Jesus could directly provide me with romantic fulfillment.

You may have guessed that my quest never yielded the answers I sought. I struggled with enormous self-condemnation because Jesus didn’t satisfy me. So of  course  I then searched for explanations regarding my apparent resistance to Him. I read countless “Christian” books on co-dependency, emotional dependency, inner  healing, and all sorts of other psychological blocks to “receiving God’s love.” But my  desire for marriage stubbornly remained.

Looking back, I easily see that romantic fulfillment was an idol. Mercifully, the Lord did eventually bless me with a marriage far beyond my expectations, for which I praise Him. But what if He hadn’t?

Scripture says that God  created us for His pleasure and purposes, not so that He could cater to our “felt needs.”

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” ~~Revelation 4:11 (ESV)

The King James Version says “and for thy pleasure they are created.” So, while my marriage extends happiness as a wonderful by-product, the Lord actually brought it about to glorify Himself. If He had chosen to keep me single, He would have also done that for His glory. My emotional gratification really matters little in comparison to how He chooses to glorify Himself through me.

As post-modern evangelicals shift increasingly toward a gospel that requires the Lord to meet our emotional needs, we lose sight of the true Gospel that revolves around Him. The Lord primarily cares about making us holy. He died in order to take the wrath of God that rightly belongs to each of us so that we, as a corporate Church, might be His eternal Bride. Thus, His purpose in redeeming us goes far beyond our temporal happiness.

When we then shift the emphasis from His eternal joy to what we can get out of Him in this life, we cheapen the Gospel. In fact, dear sisters in Christ, we cheapen Christ. The hours we waste in psychological counseling could be used in studying and applying Scripture as we seek to live in holiness before Him.

“Christian” psychology, by offering non-existent answers to questions we have no business asking in the first place, subtly shifts God into the role of our Servant. Even though He does graciously bless us, we must break out of our insidious attitude that He has an obligation to fulfill us emotionally. We exist to please Him, and we can rejoice that He takes pleasure in us.

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Why Do I Prefer To Call Myself A Worm?

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with the gentleman who sometimes plays the piano at church. We had sung only traditional hymns that morning (we normally sing a mixture of hymns and contemporary praise songs), and I wanted to express my absolute delight at the experience.

The conversation meandered to the subject of updated hymns. There are one or two I like, but their lyrics haven’t been altered. I don’t really object to an updated tune. The pianist and I agreed, however, that some of the adapted lyrics that have cropped up over the past five or ten years tend to water down a hymn’s doctrinal content.

He  gave the example of substituting the phrase, “for sinners such as I,” in place of the original “for such a worm as I.” As he saw it, the image of a worm more strongly communicates who we are in comparison to the holy and righteousness Lord. It emphasizes the astonishing grace Jesus showered on undeserving sinners through His crucifixion.

I agreed with him! The lyric reveals His extravagant kindness by pointing to our total depravity. Praise God, YouTube still has a rendition of the hymn with the original phrase intact.

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Saturday Sampler: July 23 — July 29

Swatches 01

For those who wonder why people object so strongly to The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I beg you to read Eugene Peterson by Justin Peters. He compares selected passages with more standard Bible translations to show why this paraphrase cannot be trusted.

One of the things I like best about Michelle Lesley is her unwillingness to compromise God’s Word. Her post, The Mailbag: Female Pastors – False Teachers or Just Sinning?, looks at the issue fairly while raising important questions based on both Scripture and Michelle’s observation. I do wish she would have also commented on women who, although they don’t hold the office of pastor, teach men.

Discernment ministry isn’t the path to popularity, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us in Don’t Expect a Crowd.

The problem with hip humility by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day hits the nail on the head. Is it really cool to cuss a little if we profess to love Jesus? Jennifer causes us to think seriously about such casual attitudes.

What can I say about Erin Benziger’s essay, On the Dangers of Distorting God’s Grace, which you’ll find on Do Not Surprised? She gives a healthy balance on responding to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love her passion for His truth!

It bothers me that evangelicals teach people to expect God to speak to them apart from Scripture. So Elizabeth Prata’s pointed essay, How did they ever hear God without a how-to manual? in The End Time, both amuses and encourages me. She stands firm on the Word of God, as we all should.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ writes a heartfelt blog entry called Content in Christ Alone that, to be honest, addresses a malaise common to all women. Although she doesn’t say anything particularly novel, she certainly reminds us of basic Biblical truth. Sometimes we need such reminders.

Are you in that heartwrenching season of praying earnestly for someone, only to see them harden themselves against the Gospel? If so, Even If He Doesn’t by Staci Eastin of Out of the Ordinary will most assuredly minister to you.

On her blog, Unified in Truth, Nikki Campbell educates us on The Downgrade Controversy that dogged the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon and relates it to the downgrade in evangelical churches today. She features a short, but compelling video with John MacArthur explaining how history is sadly repeating itself, as well as how pastors and congregations can resist this unbiblical trend.

Let’s add a second article by Leslie A., if only to validate my pet peeve regarding smart phones. Every Three Seconds looks at our addiction to these devices as well as suggesting ways to use them more responsibly and in ways that honor God.

Visiting an Embassy by Jesse Johnson is a slight departure from the sort of writing that usually appears in The Cripplegate. It also makes a powerful point about seeker-sensitive churches.

Please don’t miss Amy Spreeman’s article, When women’s ministries abandon the Bible, on the Naomi’s Table website. It perplexes me that any Bible Study group would choose to study a book when they can study the very Word of God.

If you feel left out because you don’t hear God speak personally to you, check out God Doesn’t Talk to Me on Rachel’s danielthree 18 blog. She guides us on making right decisions. I’ll offer no hints on how she advises us to seek God’s will; I want you to read her counsel for yourselves.

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Showing Compassion Doesn’t Mean Discarding The Bible

Rainbow and Cross“Why are Christians against gay people?” The broader society asks that question frequently, and I think many times they ask it sincerely. For those who don’t accept the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, we certainly seem like narrow minded bigots who arbitrarily hate a segment of society that we just don’t bother to understand.

I get what they’re saying. I know, as someone with Cerebral Palsy, how it feels to be stereotyped and excluded. People often misunderstand me by judging that my inability to hold my head erect, speak without slurring my words or swallow my saliva indicates that I’m intellectually impaired. Yes, being different, and therefore rejected because of those differences, hurts members of the LBGTQ community in much the same way as it hurts me. And, if you remove the Bible from the equation, it indeed does resemble irrational fear and prejudice on the part of Christians.

But as Christians, we must not dismiss the authority of Scripture. True, we need gentleness and compassion, realizing that people with homosexual feelings honestly believe they were born gay. Or that transgendered people genuinely believe they have the wrong body parts. At the same time, the Word of God mandates that we accept God’s pattern for human sexuality, even when doing so makes us appear callous and arrogant.

In responding to charges that we hate gay people, we must begin by explaining that same sex attraction does not make homosexuality a person’s actual identity. Those with same sex attraction will automatically balk at this distinction, and we need to understand that they’ve experienced these attractions since early childhood. Similarly, we can tell them, we’ve experienced sinful feelings like anger, greed, egotism or anxiety since our early childhood, but we separate those powerful predispositions from who we are, correctly naming them as sins.

From that point, we absolutely must affirm that, though we hate homosexuality (just as we hate our own sin). we love people trapped in that sin enough to call them to repentance. Typically, that affirmation will be met with great cynicism. We must accept the cynicism as a result of all the rejection people with these particular sins have historically endured.

Yet we cannot allow compassion and understanding to modify the truth. No matter how gently and lovingly we express the Biblical view of homosexuality, and no matter how much we understand their perception that calling homosexuality a sin attacks their very identity, most people suffering with this sin simply won’t believe us. They will demand that we reject Scripture’s authority in order to prove that we accept them.

Absolutely, let’s do our best to treat people with compassion and respect, no matter what sins dominate their lives. But let’s also adhere to God’s Word as our ultimate authority, praying that some will comprehend the truth and turn to the Lord.

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The Folly And Shame Of Weighing In Too Quickly

ae2c7-pearlonvictoriandesignLast January, well-known Christian apologist James White and Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi conducted a two part dialogue to help their respective communities understand some of the actual beliefs of Christianity and Islam. On the first evening, they appeared in a church, where White permitted Qadhi to present Muslim beliefs without challenge. On the following evening, they met in Qadhi’s own Mosque, where White straightforwardly declared the Gospel.

In June, Christian radio host Brannon Howse unearthed the YouTube video of the discussion in the church, and has since launched a vicious attack on White. He believes White has violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, particularly in failing to refute Qadhi or proclaim the Gospel during the meeting in the church. The controversy escalated, even to the point of branding White as a heretic.

I’ve followed the bruhaha fairly closely, reading arguments on both sides and watching the video of the discussion in the Mosque (which, it should be noted, Howse and his supporters carefully avoid mentioning). Although I wrote a couple posts early in June which indirectly alluded to the controversy, for the most part I didn’t really believe I had enough information to state an opinion. And frankly, I struggled to the point of doubting my own discernment abilities, therefore putting off blogging about it until I could reach a solid conclusion.

I took my guidance from Proverbs:

13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.
14 A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him
    and brings him before the great.
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
18 The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. ~~Proverbs 18:13-20 (ESV)

I kept studying the various arguments, knowing I shouldn’t speak further until I felt assurance that I adequately understood whether or not James White did anything wrong. Only in the last week have I settled in my mind that, though he probably could have found wiser ways of staging the dialogue, he made no substantive compromises. Additionally, Brannon Howse erred by totally ignoring what happened at the Mosque, therefore misrepresenting the facts in order to smear White’s reputation.

Now that I feel ready to weigh in, however, everyone else has finally moved on to other matters. As well they should! The ugliness displayed on both sides dishonored Christ.

Part of me regrets waiting so long to voice my opinion. Blogging gains traction, in part, by addressing controversies  as they unfold. If a Christian blogger handles a controversial topic with humility and fairness, bringing out Biblical principles that direct readers to the Lord, I see no reason not to write about it.

I can’t stop remembering childhood experiences of crawling across  the lawn to join the neighborhood kids in play, only to watch them move to another yard just before I reached them. Once again, I’ve arrived too late.

But another part of me appreciates the Lord for teaching me to remain silent until I could properly research the situation. In this particular case, my investigations confirmed my original position on the controversy, but what if I had stated my opinion immediately and then discovered that I was wrong? Retractions rarely receive the same attention as original articles do.

In the end, writing a blog post in the heat of the controversy would have probably boosted my readership, at least temporarily, but I would have sinned by expressing an opinion before I really knew all the facts. Such recklessness has no place on a Christian blog. Praise the Holy Spirit for convicting me to wait, study and understand all aspects of the controversy before I put forth my thoughts.

That’s actually the greater lesson in all of this, when you think about it. Ironically, White’s primary purpose in having the dialogue with Qadhi was to help Christians understand what Islam actually teaches. Understanding other viewpoints enables us to present the Gospel with greater clarity because we know their way of thinking. When Christians listen before speaking, we can make a more effective case for the Gospel.

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Boston Public Schools And The Moral Training Of Children (Or: Musings From The Subway)

IMG_3957On the subway yesterday, the man across from me was reading a local newspaper. I happened to glimpse a headline that Boston public schools plan to start teaching emotional and social skills.

Initially I reacted positively, thinking about the Snowflakes on college campuses these days who can’t tolerate anyone or anything that challenges their typically liberal beliefs. I echo others who correctly point out that college no longer encourages kids to think through a variety of viewpoints, but instead brainwashes them to adopt the liberal agenda. As a result, college kids (and their instructors) refuse to listen to those who disagree with their accepted dogmas.

Maybe teaching emotional and social skills to younger children would thicken their skin, I thought to myself. Um, public schools? In Boston? Obviously I suffered momentary brain lapse. Whatever they define as “emotional and social skills,” I highly doubt that they encourage kids to consider conservative and Biblical perspectives!

Thinking further about the headline, it occurred to me that parents, not schools, should teach emotional and social skills to their children. Granted, few secularized parents do teach these things. Over the past 50 years, parents have abdicated more and more of their responsibilities to the schools, allowing the very indoctrination that produces Snowflakes in the first place.

I understand that, because I don’t have children of my own, some of you mothers may resent me for daring to comment on what parents should and shouldn’t do. And I concede that I have limited understanding of the difficulties and complexities of child rearing. Furthermore, I realize that single moms face even more struggles. For those without husbands to take the lead in teaching your children, I can appreciate that having the schools help shoulder your burden can be an enormous relief.

Yet I also know that parents (and especially Christian parents) ought to take charge of training their children how to navigate through life. Such training depends on teaching and modeling Scripture’s commands and principles. Moses’ instructions to Israel certainly apply to Christian parents.

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. ~~Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (ESV)

The apostle Paul gives us a similar charge:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~~Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Scripture doesn’t have parents entrusting their children to secular institutions when it comes to the arena of morality and ethics. I don’t know exactly what “emotional and social skills” the Boston public schools intend to teach, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Sermon on the Mount won’t be part of the curriculum.

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Emotional Abuse, Divorce And Why I’ve Remained Silent About Them

Dear DebbieLynneA couple of years ago, a lady initiated an email correspondence with me. She suffered from an emotionally abusive marriage, and desperately wanted me to affirm her in seeking a divorce. More than that, she wanted me to blog about women in abusive marriages, presumably advocating for divorce in such circumstances.

I could do neither. Since that correspondence, however, I’ve often thought about the problem of emotionally abusive marriages. As someone who blogs as a ministry to other women, I sometimes wonder if perhaps people expect me to address this important issue. So today I want to offer some loosely organized reasons that I don’t believe I’m qualified to write much on this subject.

Of course I felt sad for the lady. Emotional abuse is terrible, and nobody should have to endure that sort of suffering. I really wanted to agree that God would bless her decision to abandon the marriage, especially as her emails overflowed with painful feelings of frustration and entrapment. Sadly, my understanding of Scripture doesn’t allow me to support divorce for any reasons other than adultery or abandonment.

Could I be too legalistic in how I interpret Scriptures on the topic of divorce? Yes, I absolutely could! I can see, based on commentaries and articles that I’ve read, the possibility of wider latitude in the application of the passages on divorce. Indeed, a desire to show compassion draws me to embrace that wider latitude.

The very fact that God has given me a godly husband and a happy marriage makes it difficult for me to identify with women who suffer through abusive marriages. Coming to terms with the disparity between myself and these hurting women challenges me to exercise humility. Since I don’t go through the type of suffering that they do, wouldn’t compassion dictate that I support their decisions to escape abusive marriages?

Yet if compassion would have me accept a relaxed interpretation of Scriptures concerning divorce, shouldn’t that same compassion lead me to soften my stance on same sex marriage? Why should a Christian who experiences same sex attractions be consigned to a lifetime of either marriage without real sexual satisfaction or celibacy? Wouldn’t either of those options constitute emotional abuse?

Compassion must flow from Christians, leading us to comfort people who suffer. I understand that principle. At the same time, compassion can’t permit us to water down God’s Word, even when God’s Word demands painful sacrifices from those we want to comfort.

The woman who emailed me  about her marriage. while she was genuinely hurting, could only give me the story from her perspective. Understand, I’m  by no means accusing her of lying. She presented the facts from her point of view, which is all anybody can do. But I hadn’t heard her husband’s version of the story, nor had I heard her pastor explain why he counseled her to remain in the marriage. I could have allowed a misguided sense of compassion to undermine appropriate Biblical advice, all because I couldn’t see all sides of her situation.

Perhaps God’s Word does make provision for abused spouses to end their marriages. I’ve read articles on both sides of the issue, and have concluded that I don’t have enough understanding to address the matter Scripturally. I’m sorry for ladies like the one who emailed me, but until I feel confident that I rightly understand the Bible about this subject, I’d rather write about subjects I actually do understand.

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